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Iowa Online Casino Gambling Not Likely to Get approval in 2023

January 24, 2023

In a disappointing message to state residents, the Iowa legislature has made clear that Iowa residents won't soon be getting access to online casino gambling. That's disappointing in a state where sports betting has been legal since 2019.

The information about online casino gambling came down from Wes Ehrecke, executive director of the Iowa Gaming Association. He cited issues related to the state's legislature having more important priorities to address during the legislative year. In an interview with the PlayUSA publication, he stated:

“This just isn’t the year to try to pursue anything like that. There are some very significant non-gaming issues that the governor and others have on their agenda and a lot of newly elected legislators. Nothing will happen on that front or any gaming issue, I would think.”

Interested parties will want to note that these "other priorities" include legislation related to gun rights, possible tax cuts, and private school scholarships.

What Happened With Online Casino Legislation in 2022

Throughout the 2022 legislative year, there were rumblings that perhaps something could get done on the online casino front in Iowa. The best effort came in the form of HSB 604, which was introduced in a committee by Rep. Bobby Kaufmann.

Here are some of the proposals that were set forth in the bill:

  • Online licensing fees would include an initial fee of $45K and an annual re-up of $10K
  • Controlling licenses would only be issued to existing pari-mutuel racetracks and excursion gambling boats
  • Each licensee would be permitted to partner with two (2) online operators
  • Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission would be permitted to authorize a third partner when they see fit

According to Kaufman, he never really intended to present the bill on the House floor. Instead, he wanted to simply get it through a committee with the idea he might present it to the floor in 2023.

Kaufman has since been appointed as the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. While HSB 604 could be refiled this year, another representative would have to take the ball and run with it. Most representatives agree that this is very unlikely to happen.

What This Means

As stated above, Iowa casino gambling enthusiasts have got to be disappointed. They have been waiting close to 3 1/2 years for a chance to have online access to casino games of chance.

One of the major hang-ups on the online casino gambling issue is related to the reluctance of some state retail casinos to support online access. Currently, only 9 of the state's 13 retail casinos are interested in moving forward with online casino gambling. As one might expect, opposition casinos are concerned about having their "hospitality" revenue cannibalized as Iowa casino goes decide to stay home and play online.

It's becoming increasingly clear that until all of the state's retail casinos can reach a consensus, the legislature will not face any serious pressures to get an online casino gambling bill done.

 


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